March 24, 2020
Graduate Student Teaching Award Winners Announced
By Cameron Montieth
Alexis Adams and Patience Stevens are the 2020 recipients of the Dietrich College Humanities and Social Sciences’ awards for teaching.
“Service as teacher or teaching assistant are invaluable roles that many graduate students fill in the college’s educational mission and enterprise, and these two outstanding candidates exemplify this value to a remarkable degree,” said Joseph Devine, an associate dean in Dietrich College. “This part of their graduate training will have significant residual effects in their future careers as educators in the lives of the students they will subsequently serve.”
Adams, a Ph.D. candidate in the Second Language Acquisition (SLA) doctoral program in the Department of Modern Languages, received the Dietrich College Graduate Student Teaching Award for teaching courses for both the Modern Language Department as well as Department of English.
“It’s one thing to know you’re being nominated and it’s another to actually receive the award,” Adams said. “The English and Modern Languages departments at CMU have a great reputation for teaching students. I’m honored to represent those two departments and the efforts they put into teaching and learning.”
In her teaching statement, Adams emphasizes the importance of self-reflection in her classroom.
“To teach all students, you have to get to know who they are, where do they come from and adjusting my teaching depending on these factors,” Adams said. “In order to become a better teacher, I go through these same self-reflection processes as my students.”
In one course, Adams struggled with student participation. She noted her students’ varying cultural and educational backgrounds and partnered with the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation in order to develop new discussion methods. Students noted at the end of the semester that this new approach helped them gain new perspectives and incorporate the content into their final essays.
“Teaching language is not just about learning rules and structure but understanding what you want to say and how you want to say it,” said Adams. “It’s about expression and communication.”
According to Adams, language is a path to new opportunities and to reflect and grow.
“Learning another language is essential. It opens doors on so many different levels: traveling and meeting different people and cultures, and in turn finding yourself,” Adams said. “And as our world is more globalized, speaking another language helps bridge the gap between all of us.”
Adams will be defending her dissertation spring 2020, earning her Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition. She hopes to continue her research on pedagogic practices in teaching language and to continue developing her own techniques for incoming students.